As long as we continue believing and understanding that we are part of God’s redemptive story and as long as we go out into the street of our neighborhoods and share this powerful story in both word and deed, the Church has truly begun its missional purpose, God’s mission. At least this is what Luke 10:1-12 conveys.
For the most part, we are a society that enjoys, and somehow worships, individualism over spending time with one another. Somehow we have managed to become socially impaired by choice. The irony in all of this is that we have been created by God to be social beings and to stay and build relationships! Brad Brisco in Missional Essentials asserts that, “Isolation is a word that describes the kind of lives many people are living today.”
We need to rediscover public places where social life happens.
But in order to do that, we need to abandon isolation and engage in this human communal entanglement where real life happens.
What I mean is this: We need to learn to be willing to risk our private comfort zone by engaging in normal conversations with “real people.” The idea is to connect with people and build relationships.
It seems like we, individually and sometimes collectively, want to be protected from our neighbors. We have to engage and build a social and relational life beyond our comfort zone and beyond the walls of churches and houses.
This way of relating with other people, whether they are similar or different from us, has to be done wisely. On one hand, there are three dimensions of church life that we as a congregation and as individuals are challenged not to neglect: Our relationship with God, with the Church and with the community (just like the shape of the cross). These dimensions of relationship will help us to understand the life of the church in relationship to public spaces and, in other words, to be more missional!
As I see it, there are at least five basic components in the missional church approach: Evangelism, repentance, conversion, discipleship and mission.
As Christ’s followers, we have control over evangelism, discipleship and mission. As far as repentance and conversion, only the Holy Spirit has the control and power.
We, the Body of Christ, need to be attentive to our surroundings in order to see and join God at work. We have to faithfully hear what God is saying, not only to us but to our neighbors.
We are challenged to hang out in those places where Jesus hangs out!
In time and as we become more familiar with this practice, we will be able to connect the dots and see the movement of the Spirit.
To better illustrate my point, let me share two short personal stories.
The first happened in the summer of 2013 when my wife and I came to Wichita to explore a missional opportunity as church planters.
During our visit, while driving around the city, we stopped for an ice cream at “La Tropicana” and a year later, we began to have a regular “café por la paz” (Peace Coffee) at the laundromat which happens to be next door to that ice cream shop.
Secondly, as soon as we moved into the Wichita area, we got lost trying to find Open Door ministries in the downtown area. Instead, we ended up in Andover city, about 16 miles east of our destination! A year later, we met a lady at the laundromat that happens to live two blocks from where we were lost in Andover city. Today, we have house church in that vicinity!
My point is this: Even if we refuse to hang out in the places where Jesus hangs out, he will create opportunities for that to happen!
Lamar Williamson, a New Testament scholar, asserts that “The Kingdom of God grows in hidden and mysterious ways, and independently of human effort.”
That is to say, the kingdom of God came to our community even before us and probably it did not come in a “conventional or traditional” way!
God has been at work in our cities long before us and he has kindly invited us to be part of his mission. Because God is in mission, we too can be in mission.
In order for the Kingdom of God to bear fruit, the Holy Spirit’s presence and power and people who are willing to plant and spread the seed of life are needed.
To lay a clear foundation for the missional church, first and foremost, we are challenged to understand that the Father sent Jesus, the Son sent the Holy Spirit and this triune God has sent the Church.
Consequently, the question to be asked is: where has the church been sent?
The church has been sent into the world to be a city on the hill and to be the light in its community. We have been invited to join God at work in our local neighborhood and then abroad.
The biblical text at hand conveys this message of commissioning and sending. Jesus sent his disciples forth and gave them power to preach, heal and cast out demons.
Jesus’ followers were to go as they were, without an extra set clothing or anything of the kind. Rather, the idea was and still is to trust God to care and provide for the needs.
In today’s language this equals to something like this: Church, go and hang out with people in ordinary places–places where community life happens–and be God’s witness there!
The church needs to go to people’s houses and in turn these households will come to church. We need to go where the Kingdom is already at hand.
As church, we don’t have all the rights of the kingdom; God does!
Jesus loves to hang out in churches, baseball fields, laundromats and so on. My friends, look for Jesus at the parks, picnics, basketball courts, marketplaces, plazas, you name it: the list of places is endless.
On the other hand, the sending of the 70 disciples indicates the growing numbers of those who followed Jesus. In other words, it indicates the presence and practice of a missional approach.
If you take one thing out this conversation, may I suggest this: The missional church approach understands that we are sent people; we all are missionaries. As the starting point, we as church and as individuals are to join God’s mission in our local neighborhoods and abroad.
This is the type of message that Luke wants to convey. Jesus’ instruction is to go everywhere. The idea is to see and hear what God is already doing!
As we see and hear what the Spirit is doing, we will discover opportunities to join God’s mission. Let us take every opportunity possible to share with others about this wonderful, powerful, graceful and salvific God! It is in the midst of daily life and simple conversations that we will discover that Jesus is already hanging out with these people.
Jesus is saying to us: “Come with me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
This practical spiritual work might not be an easy one. Sometimes, we will be ignored and sometimes people will become interested and curious as to why we are engaging in a friendly conversation. It is the in the midst of this conversation that we can test the possibility to tell them about Jesus and why we are followers.
May I suggest considering sharing, whenever possible, your Jesus moment. If you are comfortable enough, share about your conversion. If applicable, share your life before Jesus: when you decided to follow, why you are a follower and how your life is now as a follower of Christ. We are challenged to hang out in the places where Jesus hangs out and to tell others about him.
After all, conversion, discipleship and mission are part of a journey and they cannot be separated from each other.